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Hospitality industry slams proposed changes to impaired driving legislation

Posted by on 23/08/2019

EDMONTON – Alberta is cracking down on impaired drivers with legislation that calls for more mandatory vehicle seizures and licence suspensions, but the proposed changes aren’t sitting well with some in the hospitality industry.

“I think it’s being rushed through too quick without research and insight into how they should go about these legislations,” said David Wilk, general manager of On the Rocks, a bar in downtown Edmonton.

“It would affect people who go out for a casual drink after work … they want to have a glass of wine or a pint of beer, it’s going to make them think twice about going out and doing that now.”

Wilk isn’t the only one with concerns – he and about 30 other members of Edmonton’s service industry met to discuss the legislation on Monday afternoon. The consensus is that the proposed legislation would punish social drinkers as well as drunk drivers.

“Our members are very, very concerned that this is going to cost them business and it’s going to confuse their customers as far as what they can do as far as having a social drink and driving,” said Mark Von Schellwitz of the Canadian Restaurant and Foodservices Association.

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Under the proposal, a person caught driving over the legal limit of 0.08 for the first time would lose there vehicle for three days, and lose their licence until the criminal charge is resolved.

They would then have to install an alcohol screening device for one year at their own cost that prevents a vehicle from starting.

Drivers caught repeatedly with blood alcohol levels just under the legal limit would lose their vehicle for up to seven days and their licence for up to 30 days. These drivers would not be charged under the Criminal Code.

Andrew Murie, CEO of Mothers Against Drunk Driving, says the plan to impound the vehicles of suspected impaired drivers for 72 hours will get results. He says similar legislation in B.C. that targets drivers with alcohol levels just below the legal limit has resulted in a big drop in impaired driving deaths.

Alberta Transportation says 96 people died and 1,384 were injured in the province last year because of impaired driving.

“We’re in favour of getting drunk drivers off the road,” Schellwitz said. “But the statistics clearly show that two-thirds of all alcohol-related fatalities are by drivers that are over double legal impaired limit, not under .08.”

Schellwitz says hundreds of his association’s members have written their MLAs urging that the legislation be reconsidered. He plans to meet with representatives from Calgary’s hospitality industry on Tuesday.

“We’re hoping that at the very least that we can convince the government to focus their legislation on those that are over .08,” Shellwitz said.

“Going after the real impaired drivers – we’ll support that, but please leave the social drinker that’s not impaired alone.” 

With files from the Canadian Press.

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